Once upon a time, I used to write traditional film reviews. It first began in High School where I hadn’t one shred of a clue of how to inform you which movies to see and which to skip. Rather than enter into intelligent discourse on the merits of the film in question, I would just run a moment by moment play-by-play description of the entire film.
“And then Forrest Whitaker asks the Irish dude to help him take a leak. And then the Irish dude inadvertently lets Whitaker escape. And then Whitaker runs into the street and gets flattened by a truck. And then the Irish dude tracks down Whitaker’s sugar momma, played by the smoking hot Jaye Davidson, at her London flat and begins to romance her himself. And then trou is dropped and Jaye sports a Johnson. And then, oh my god, that chick’s a dude. Oh, the horror. The horror.”
When I ambled my way to college, I ended up majoring in Journalism and gravitated towards the local school newspaper to apprentice and practice my chops. A short lived stint on hard news quickly diverted me to the Living/Arts section where I could marry my two loves – writing and movies – and get to work refining my form and finding my style. Essentially, get my groove on.
So for three years, I toiled at the UMASS Daily Collegian – starting with little capsule reviews of the films running on the campus cable station and eventually working my way to the week’s ‘B’ releases before finally sharing co-critic duties with our Living Arts editor and taking on the heavy hitters and A-list mainstream fare. To this day, I still get death threats for the Extreme Home Work-over I applied to Mrs. Doubtfire.
So, where’s this preamble lead? Simply put, I’m done critiquing movies. After awhile, you see so many flicks and critique so much of what goes into composing a film, that you begin to miss the magic. Instead of being transported, you’re stuck admiring sound editing decisions or interpreting a crane shot. And the less you know about a fluffer, the better.
That’s why I try to avoid providing traditional film reviews on this site. Besides, a Blog should be a stream of consciousness – letting y’all in on what goes on in your Ed today.
In the past, I’ve used these pages to clue you in on a television series that I feel has been neglected and really deserves some coddling. A couple of years ago, I expounded on the virtues of The Office. Now, I doubt my call to arms did anything but it’s nice to see that the mainstream audience finally embraced that great comedy. Late last year, I implored people to start watching Friday Night Lights. As it stands, that show is on the bubble but I’ve recently read that DirecTV may go into joint partnership with NBC to fund and co-air the series next season meaning this bubble show may see a third season which is all I have ever asked for, for it to be given as many chances to find as wide an audience as possible. Anyway, I call that particular series of posts – The Best Show on Television You’re Not Watching.
With that said, I’ve decided to launch a sporadic sister post, The Best Movie You’ve Never Seen, where I’ll use this space to endorse but not necessarily review a film that I think has slipped through the cracks and really deserves a shot on stage.
First up is Hot Fuzz. I know what you’re thinking – all this impassioned fervor just to pimp some hard core pornography?!?!? Well, you couldn’t be much further from the truth. Hot Fuzz is a British import… and with that I lost ya’.
Seriously, this movie kicks unholy amounts of ass and is tremendously funny to boot. Hot Fuzz comes from the same creative team that made the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead a few years back. That team – which first came together on the BBC series Spaced – is made up of director Edgar Wright, actor/comedian Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost. Wright handles the directorial duties while he usually collaborates on the scripts with Pegg. Most American audiences may have had their first introduction to Pegg in J.J. Abrams take on Mission Impossible III, where he cast Pegg as Ethan Hunt’s techie friend who memorably went on about the ‘Anti God’ device and later helped our intrepid Scientologist out of a big jam. And while it was great to see Pegg in that small role, his talents were mostly squandered there.
Not so in Hot Fuzz. Pegg co-scripted and stars in this flick that plays as a loose parody of the Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay action flicks like Bad Boys II. The catch here is Pegg’s hardened supercop is busted down from London (where his stellar crime fighting is making a mockery of his fellow officer’s performance) and shipped out to sleepy Sandford, England – an idyllic village in the countryside where nothing much happens. Soon, Pegg’s Nick Angel finds that beneath the exterior of this docile surface beats a heart of darkness, as a series of grotesque murders (deemed unhappy accidents by the locals) begins to pile up, pointing to a dark conspiracy. Teaming up with his naïve partner Danny (Nick Frost), the two cops work to bust the lid off the cauldron of corruption stirring in this town.
While the film works well as parody – setting the action histrionics against the quiet solitude of this sleepy hamlet – it rises above simple satire by not going for cheap jokes. Wright and Pegg know that you have to have reverence for the subject matter you’re spoofing – you have to take this stuff seriously. In fact, I hesitate to call this a spoof at all – it’s more of a tribute. When you think of a traditional spoof, you think of a rapid fire series of random jokes and non-sequitors – like that Date Movie, Epic Movie, Scary Movie dreck that is pumped out year-after-year. Fuzz actually takes its plot seriously and simply slyly integrates its comic homages into the action. You’ll notices the beats they crib from their targets (the hero cop unable to shoot at the fleeing suspect ala Point Break) but it’s done in such a subtle way that the humor is well earned.
I’ll be honest, this movie was a complete surprise and blew me away. Of late, I’ve been catching flicks on the various movie channel HD On Demand selections that we garnered from our recent switch to DirecTV. They seem to play well on the 40” LCD Widescreen and look leagues better than traditional DVD (right now I’ve got The Prestige staring me down). While I had Hot Fuzz recorded in my queue for the last couple of weeks, it wasn’t until the other night that the mood hit me just right to settle down with the flick. And I loved the hell out of it. It’s got a lot of energy and is very inventive.
In fact, Wright and Pegg did such a great job finding the most picturesque pastoral village that you instantly fall in love with it – you want to seek this site out and make it your next vacation destination. They then, in the grand tradition of the Harry Potter flicks, stocked the cast with a Who’s Who of British Theater vets (including Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, Bill Nighy, Paul Freeman (Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark) and just see if you can spot Cate Blanchett). This cast brings the town to life – some characters only get a few lines but in those few lines you feel like you’ve known them your whole life and want a tip a pint or two with ‘em.
The other big surprise is how much action is in the film and how gory some of the set pieces are. They’re more in the vein of the Evil Dead series where the gore is so over the top and surprising that you actually sort of laugh at the audaciousness of it.
And without spoiling much, the final act – which features a raging gun battle that tears this sleepy hollow apart – is as inventive as any that Bay or Rodriguez has masterminded. The fact that you are so invested in Pegg and Frost’s characters, and their camaraderie, makes these final scenes all the more thrilling.
I can’t say too much more without spoiling the film. I will say that if you take my advice, you’ll find a smart, funny and just plain fun flick. This is one I wish I had caught in the theater with a big crowd. I have a feeling this played well with a big audience, creating that Wave-like effect where the entire audience is laughing along at the same time, so loud that you end up missing the next joke. That said, sitting at home, alone and just grooving to the pic still played real well with me. So well that I immediately had to tell someone to go see it.
That someone is you. So what are you waiting for. Get out there and Netflix this cheeky bastard.